Category Archives: Book Talk

Book reviews and the like- we have opinions, let us share them with you.

Bulk Book Review | Regency Romances

I have recently discovered a new genre of books and needless to say it has been quite devastating on my bank account, not to mention my already dwindling degree of social interaction. The genre is that of historical romance, particularly of the regency variety.

A while back, I found myself to have thoroughly enjoyed Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix, Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman and Illusions of Fate by Kierstin White, all YA reads set in alternate regency era. And so a curiosity arose to delve further into the era. I ordered and read A Little Scandal by Meg Cabot writing as Patricia Cabot thinking what better way to embark onto an uncharted genre of books than with an author I feel completely at home with.

And I fear I have been unable to stop since, given how highly populated the genre is. So here is a selection of 5 regency romances I have read from the dozens since the beginning of the year.

1 Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh

I have read half a dozen of Balogh’s works in quick succession since discovering I enjoyed this genre but Only a Kiss has to be my utmost favourite. It is the second last instalment of her Survivor’s Club Series which explores the lives of seven friends, six gentlemen and a lady, who are all recovering from the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars.

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Only a Kiss follows Lady Imogen Barclay who has confined herself to a life of loneliness in Cornwell after witnessing the death of the husband during the war. She desperately hopes that the inheritor of her husband’s estate ignores the charming seaside property so she can continue to live there in fragile peace. However, Percival (Perce) Hayes, Earl of Hardford decides to visit his estate on a whim, having grown bored of his charmed existence as a gentleman of leisure in London. Their unexpected encounter eventually develops into a passion that both Imogen and Perce thought they were incapable of feeling.

I think what I most liked about Only a Kiss is that the roles of the hero and heroine are somewhat reversed. Imogen takes on the role of the quintessential brooding (or rather grieving) lady of the manor with Perce playing the chalk to her cheese, who turns her world up side down. He was quite adorable with his severe case of foot-in-mouth syndrome and I found myself visibly shocked at some of his interactions with Imogen while fighting back tears or suppressing giggles at others. I adore cameos from the remaining members of the club throughout the series but I particularly enjoyed their appearance in this instance because it was intriguing to see the men interact with Perce and his impression of them. It was quite brief though and I would have loved an extended sequence in this regard.

There were some truly heart wrenching moments, particularly when Imogen recounts her painful experiences and the reader discovers the extent of her grief. Perce’s moments of reflection on his otherwise charmed life and lack of purpose, in reference to, if not in stark contrast to, what he learns about Imogen was equally poignant.

The light overarching suspense was also well done making the read a wholesome experience.

2 How to Catch an Heiress by Julia Quinn

Julia Quinn is delightfully hilarious and the few books of hers that I have read thus far are easy, heart warming reads exuding all the comforts of classic romantic comedies.

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In To Catch an Heiress, when the heroine, Caroline Trent, is mistakenly kidnapped by Blake Ravenscroft, she doesn’t even try to elude the agent of the crown because she is running from an unwanted marriage.

When the truth of her identity comes out,  Blake reluctantly agrees to allow her to stay in his manor until she turns 21 years of age and comes into her inheritance, freeing her from the clutches of her unsavoury guardians.

Manor fever ensues as the mismatched couple attempt to cohabit, all the while not realizing that they may be destined for love.

This was a light and breezy read that had me in stitches more often than not. Caroline was this wonderfully weird and crazy heroine who did not allow her painful childhood to dampen her shine and Blake was the epitome of the hardened tall, dark and scary lord of the manor. However, it was the ensemble of the supporting cast that made this read so enjoyable, particularly Blake’s bold staff with their ridiculous fondness for Caroline and Blake’s friend and colleague James.

The suspense is all very predictable and hardly thrilling with a convenient resolution. That being said, the journey is such an enjoyable and fun one, that the former drawbacks do not matter as much.

3 Ravished by Amanda Quick

As an avid fan of fairy tale retellings and adaptations, imagine my surprise when I found that regency romances are knee deep in it!

Quick’s Ravished is not a strict retelling but rather a loose interpretation of the timeless tale of Beauty and the Beast.

Our heroine, Harriet needs a powerful and clever man to rid her beloved seaside caves of smugglers so she can attend to uncovering the hidden fossils within in peace. Viscount St Justin, owner of said caves, dubbed the Beast of Blackthorne Hall, answers her summons. While the mismatched pair negotiate their way through polite society, family expectations and organised crime, they also find their way into each others’ hearts.

51NU1kY+6-LThis one, like How to Catch and Heiress, was also quite light and fun but the mystery was more developed and tied into other aspects of the narrative making the experience multi-dimensional.

Harriet is an adorkable and obsessive fossil collector and Gideon is this scarred (literally and figuratively) brooding pseudo outcast. Theirs is an odd and convenient partnership but adorable beyond measure. They were deeply communicative despite their warring personalities, there were no no pesky misunderstandings or presumptions to unnecessarily complicate the narrative.

Harriet and Gideon made a great team and the bond they shared was fiercely strong. They stood side by side and were supportive and defensive of each other while also calling each other out on their BS when the need arose.

I really enjoyed their journey, from their hilarious meet cute to their swoon worthy happily ever after.

4  A Little Scandal by Patricia Cabot

It is only fair to include A Little Scandal to this collection what with it being the gateway drug to this newly acquired addiction.

9781466814301Cabot is one of my all time favourites and I have loved her entire body of work to date so it was hardly surprisingly I loved this one. Only Cabot can ensure I thoroughly enjoy a story about a 37 year old single father (Burke) of a boy-crazed teenaged girl who, against all odds, falls in love with the governess (Kate) he hires to control said daughter. I say this because my literary protagonists of late have not be over 20 years of age.

Burke was oblivious to what he wanted for himself and it was a little infuriating at times. He was clearly tired of his casual flings and wanted a quiet and static existence yet he had a funny way of dealing with it.

Kate was a plucky one and I loved her sense of self respect. She did not allow her dire circumstances or impulses to welcome disrespect or to trivialise her feelings. My hero!

It was my first brush with the regency era and I was quite appalled with the double standards aristocratic men had with respect to women during that time. It was completely fine to offer/engage in a no strings attached relationship with what they considered the servant class or actresses/performers but it was in bad taste to do the same with respect to women who were members of the aristocracy. As if non-aristocratic women did not have the same feelings and therefore did not warrant serious proposals of commitment.

Other than that little critique which jumps up now and again in other books of the genre, this was a good read which opened up a world of other good reads.

5 The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah Maclean

The Rogue Not Taken opens with Sophie Talbot finally having had enough of London’s aristocracy and its tabloid culture and stowing away on Kingscote’s (King) carriage to escape the chaos and return to her beloved childhood home in the country. When King discovers Sophie, he is livid, thinking she plans to trap him into marriage like her notorious sisters.  She is equally livid of at this presumption. She wouldn’t have him if he were the last man on earth. It is War. Or is it more? Opposites attract after all.

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This was a great read. The dialogue between Sophie and King was crackling! I love a good road trip and this was a thrilling, hilarious and adventurous one with curricle racing, highwaymen, gunshot wounds, pickpockets, handsome doctors, Scottish flirts, labyrinths and wonderfully weird family members.

That being said, it became quite infuriatingly melodramatic towards the end with King insisting he felt one way while behaving otherwise. If it quacks like a duck, you get the idea. But King did not! Which in turn led me to be infuriated with Sophie, whom I liked up until then, because she basically became a deity of self-pity and self-sacrifice from thereon.

However, it somewhat redeems itself before its close and alls well that ends well.

In conclusion, guilty pleasure does not get better than regency romances especially when it features immense wit, charm and grace and is not just a sorry excuse for a bodice-ripper. The above authors definitely left their marks on me and I cannot wait to delve further into their works. Balogh is easily the best of the lot as I have found her characters to be wonderfully complex and multi-layered and her plots rather unique. Quinn excels when it comes to humor while Quick’s originality amidst the stereotypical is compelling. I have just discovered Maclean and I certainly love her spunky take on the genre. In any event, I am having the time of my life working through the genre so stay tuned.

Book Review: The Lunar Chronicles

I have contemplated reviewing The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, time and time again but have always shied away at the last minute because I cannot possibly articulately express how much I love this book series. So if you are reading this, I have finally succeeded.

Fairytale retellings are one of my favourite genres so it was a surprise that I did not pick up this series until a week or so before the release of the third instalment. I admit that its  popularity kept me at bay because historically I have not felt the same way about hugely popular series like this. But mostly I just need to come to the decision to pick up and read a book independently and without undue influence. I do not know what finally made me pick up the series but once I did there was no looking back.

The Lunar Chronicles compromises of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter, deconstructions of Cinderella, The Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves respectively. It is gorgeously constructed space opera which borrows from steampunk, dystopian and science fiction.

Needless to say spoilers may follow.

Cinder

In hindsight Cinder is probably the weakest of the quartet given that it is predictable despite the clever update Meyer gives to the classic tale. That being said, it is gripping none-the-less, because Meyer’s Cinderella takes place in a plague-ridden New Beijing  that is under the threat of invasion from the mysterious inhabitants of the moon, the Lunars. Her Cinderella, Cinder, is a gifted mechanic who is a little more than a slave to her  stepmother and stepsisters because she is a cyborg.

Both Cinder and Kai are wonderful characters, relatable despite the former being a cyborg and the latter the heir to a futuristic Beijing. Their romance was sweet despite its predictability and building intrigue behind the Lunars’ motives makes it an engaging and compelling introduction to the series. However, it is the follow ups to Cinder that makes The Lunar Chronicles one of the most beloved YA series of recent times.

Scarlet

Scarlet picks up where Cinder left off with our favourite cyborg imprisoned and plotting an escape with an unlikely ally: Captain Carswell Thorne. Meanwhile, on other side of the globe, Paris to be exact, Scarlet Benoit is searching for her missing grandmere with the aid of a mysterious street-fighter who goes by the name of Wolf. And all the while, Queen Levena is revving up her nefarious plans to bind Emperor Kai in matrimony and, like all good villains, take over the world…and the moon.

Scarlet is probably my most favourite instalment out of the quartet mainly because I adore the external and internal dichotomy of Scarlet and Wolf and the unlikely pairing of the two.

Scarlet, simply put, is fierce. A red-hoodie wearing, gun-toting red-head, she is all shoot first, ask questions later. Wolf, who is fierce appearance, is actually of a shy and quiet disposition. He is completely adorable if you ignore the little factoid that he may just rip your throat out.  Their hesitant/cautious meet-cute and slow-burning romance was brilliantly developed and rather swoon-worthy, despite its complexities. I must admit I enjoyed it far more than Kai and Cinder’s relationship which was rather conventional in the circumstances.

Where Cinder’s narrative was confined to her point of view, the multiple POVs in Scarlet made the narrative multi-faceted, the various vantage points creating a very wholesome reading experience. I was equally riveted by the all the characters journeys and found myself looking forward to when they’d converge.

Finally, the introduction of Captain Thorne, certainly spiced things up and bridged the second and third instalments cleverly, but more on Captain Thorne later.

Cress

Cress opens with Cinder and Captain Thorne, now fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. The foursome are still vigorously pursing to overthrow evil Queen Levana. Their best hope: Cress, a lunar, imprisoned on a satellite since she was child, for the purposes of monitoring Earth and perpetuating Levena’s world domination plans. But there’s a catch, she has just been commissioned to track down Cinder and Thorne (for whom she harbours a major crush) by Levena. When a daring rescue plan for Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom but it comes at a high price.

Cress was surprisingly an improvement on Cinder and Scarlet, an arguably tighter narrative with a stronger focus on the development of the individual leads.

Cress is a technological genius and an adorable combination of sweet, naive, terrified, quietly brave and immensely lonely. For someone so disenfranchised, her belief in people is unshakeable. She did not allow the destruction of her preconceived notions to destroy her, instead she learnt from it and strengthened he resolve. She has a lot of growing up to do in limited time and I loved seeing her negotiate that mind field. I particularly enjoyed her reconciling her feelings for Thorne with the realities of Thorne. She is a hopeless romantic and while it was painful to see her dreams of a fairytale romance being dashed, it was also harrowing to see her deal with it so pragmatically.

Carswell Thorne is easily the most likeable character of the series, exuding all the charms of your favourite space cowboys, whether it be Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds or Peter Quill. For me, he was not dissimilar to Flynn Rider from Disney’s reimagining of Rapunzel, Tangled. Therefore, before I knew it Zachary Levi was delivering his lines in my mind palace. Carswell’s journey from a loveable outlaw/rogue is also not dissimilar to Flynn’s, in that he is forced time and time again to re-consider his materialistic priorities once his journey become inextricably linked to Cress’s.

In short, if you, like me, loved Tangled, you are already on the Cress/Thorne bandwagon whether you have started to read the book or not.

Scarlet is not present as much in Cress, mostly because she has a larger role in Winter. Her absence has a profound effect on Wolf. I initially found it unbecoming of him but ultimately I decided that it was sort of cute. That being said, there were times when I  just wanted to shake him and scream, ‘pull yourself together, man!’.             

Cinder’s efforts into furthering her efforts to overthrow Levena progresses simultaneously to Cress and Thorne’s journeys and further connections are revealed between the characters to solidify their intertwining destinies.

Introductions to Princess Winter and her loyal guard Jacin at the conclusion of Cress set the scene for Winter. 

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Sketches by lostie815 of Cinder, Kai, Scarlet, Wolf, Cress, Thorne and Queen Levena

Winter

Winter, if you have not guessed, introduces Princess Winter who is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness. Despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana. As Levana’s enviousness for Winter reaches a deadly fever pitch, she and Jacin join forces with Cinder and the gang to launch a revolution and win a war against Levena atrocities once and for all.

Winter probably was a slower read than than its predecessors in that it had its fair share of highs and lows. The highs were Winter and Jacin, Wolf and Scarlet, Cress and Thorne and Thorne and everyone else.

A GoodReads reviewer described Winter as ‘certifiably adorable’ and I have to agree. I loved her child-like playful personality, a contradiction to her abusive past and painful present. Her relationship with Jacin was so weirdly wonderful, both equally stubborn and equally loyal to each other.

It was nice to delve a little into Wolf’s past and Meyer certainly made his reunion with Scarlett worth the wait.

Cress and Thorne’s relationship continued to evolve and it was brilliant to see Cress blossom into a more confident version of herself and outgrow her crush on Thorne. Equally brilliant was the marked change in Thorne feelings for Cress.

Thorn’s interactions with the rest of the ensemble was also quite precious, especially Jacin. I loved their dynamic so much that I wish Meyer had written a spin-off featuring the two of them as leads in a buddy-cop kind of storyline. Sigh. I girl can dream.

The lows: Kai continued to become less crucial to the revolution while Cinder’s repetitive doubts about leading the revolution got old, quickly.

The ending was slightly rushed and a little too convenient for my liking but deconstructed or not, The Lunar Chronicles was a fairytale at the end of the day and they all lived happily ever after.

In summary, Marissa Meyer is my spirit animal. I have read copious amounts of re-tellings and none have given me as much pleasure and glee as devouring The Lunar Chronicles. Apart of the cleverly deconstructed tales the diverse characterisations and the intricate intermingling of the tales/characters are what makes this series such a winner. So, if there is only one overrated YA series you read these holidays, make sure it is The Lunar Chronicles.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Official Trailer

The trailer of the final movie in the Divergent series: Allegiant (based on the series of the same name by Veronica Roth) is now live.

The perks of being a booknerd and a moviebuff is that I am able to compartmentalise the two universes quite well and take most book-to-screen journey in my stride. This means the ability to appreciate that more often than not the change in medium (Hollywood politics, power-play aside and legal contractual terms aside) calls for a degree of creative license.

While Insurgent was tweaked just right to make it an edge-of-seat action thriller, Allegiant, at least from the what I can see in this trailer, is unrecognisable!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that as far as the books are concerned, the second and third instalments were weaker follow ups to the first but compelling nonetheless. Especially, Allegiant, which featured some great dialogue between Tris and Tobias, distinguishing them from the more run-of-the-mill YA dystopian couples. As per the trailer, I cannot anticipate the screen versions mirroring the brilliant dynamic between the two as it sufficiently evident in Insurgent, what with Tobias being just a little bit more than just stud-service to Tris.

I believe the Hollywood-powers-that-be have clearly overreacted to those dips in the narrative in Allegiant and basically terraformed the plot for commercial purposes.  For the better (e.g The Maze Runner adaption) or worse, I cannot say. What I will say is that I am definitely skeptical.

What are your thoughts? Sound off below.

 

 

Book Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill was ground zero for the recent reading slump I was in. I came down with a severe post-good-book-hangover and I took a very long time searching for a read as good as this one. Needless to say I did not like myself while I was in that slump. I am now reading 3 novels on a timed-schedule, so I am on the fast-track to recovery. But I digress (#booknerdproblems).

All Our Yesterdays is an edge of the seat (or bed) YA thriller featuring one of my favorite tropes: time travel. And Terrill’s unique and exciting approach to the genre plus a smart engaging narrative made it hard to put down.

 

Summary

What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

What I Liked

There was a lot to like about this book.

Firstly, the pivotal characters of Em, Marina, Finn and James were multi-layered and complex, so much as that their emotions, doubts, conflicts and hopes felt real  There is a particular focus of change, experience and growth and Em and Marina demonstrated this quite well.

Finn was an adorable character: funny, strong, tolerant and understanding. He was very easy to like, in comparison with James, Em and Marina, who were a lot more multi-faceted. That is not to say, that he was a one-dimensional character. He was just a rarity, in that he infused light in any situation.

James was more difficult to love and equally difficult to hate. I believe Ms Terrill wanted the reader to feel this because that is very much how Em, Marina and Finn feel about him.

Secondly, the world building and the science behind it felt deeply plausible, if not realistic. And I believe this is what extenuated the thrill of the read.

Thirdly, it is a wholesome read. There is romance, friendship, political intrigue, familial tension and a thought provoking focus on morality, innocence and conscience.  It appealed to the science fiction and dystopian lover in me, as well as the side of of me that enjoys a good philosophical debate. All in all, a brilliant combination of genres and tropes that Terrill expertly presented for the YA crowd.

Finally, that ending! Bittersweet and oddly perfect (after some contemplation). I do love a ending that is a beginning but seldom it is done quite as well as it was done in All Our Yesterdays.

What I Did Not Like

I initially dropped to my knees and screamed to the heavens (in my head, of course) when I learnt that there were going to be no sequels. However, after considering it from a practical perspective I believe Ms Terrill gave it an apt conclusion. The epilogue that Ms Terrill published on Tumblr aided my thoughts on the matters though.

The final chapter did confuse me because time’s sentience is something that is seldom explored in popular fiction (Doctor Who being an exception) and I have a less than rudimentary knowledge of physics (let alone theoretical physics). A little research and discussion between fellow readers of  the book cleared the confusion though.

Otherwise, there was nothing about All Our Yesterdays that I did not enjoy.

In conclusion, All Our Yesterdays is a widely entertaining read and a powerful debut by Ms Terrill. To say I look forward to her future works with rapt anticipation is an understatement. If you enjoy romance and science-fiction (of the time travel and/or dystopian variety), All Our Yesterdays will fulfill all your expectations.

 

 

Book Review: Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

I have been in a bit of a reading slump lately, the risk of leaving a good book hangover untreated. And a severe one at that, because September and October saw and continues to see some fantastic releases. But there is nothing like being confined in a pressurised cabin, high above ground for a few hours to snap you out of it.

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix was picked up at my customary visit to the local airport bookstore (the variety and quality of stock of which have been steadily becoming better) after a trying day at work. It is a YA regency romantic-comedy with a magical twist and more importantly it was just what I needed at that point in time: a charming and easy read that put a smile on my face.

Summary

Lady Truthful will inherit her family’s most valued heirloom on her eighteenth birthday. Until the Newington Emerald is stolen.

Lady Truthful, nicknamed “Newt” by her boy cousins, discovers that to her horror, the people closest to her have been framed for the theft. But Newt won’t let their reputations be damaged by rumors from a false accusation. Her plan is simple: go to London to recover the missing jewel. Despite her best intentions, a young lady travelling alone is frankly unacceptable behavior. So Newt and her aunt devise another plan…one that entails men’s clothing and a mustache.

While in disguise, Truthful encounters the handsome but shrewd major Harnett, who to her amazement volunteers to help find the missing emerald under the assumption that she is a man, Henri de Vienne. But once she and her unsuspecting ally are caught up in a dangerous adventure, Truthful realizes something else is afoot: the beating of her heart.

Truthful has far more than romantic complications to worry about. The stolen emerald is no ordinary heirloom-it is the source of the family’s luck and has the power to yield vast magic. It would be completely disastrous if it fell into the wrong hands. The fate of England depends on Truthful securing the emerald.

What I Liked

I appreciated the simple yet engaging plot and the alternate regency era was certainly fun. The world building is unremarkable at first glance but the magical element made it remarkable.

Truthful was a very easy character to like. If you like Jane Austen’s plucky heroines, you’ll love Truthful. What I loved most about her was that despite her various (and hilarious ) departures from what is expected of a lady in her era, she was a regency girl with the idiosyncracies of one.

Major Harnett was equally attractive, possessing all the qualities of an Austen hero with a little Flynn Rider-like flare. I think Nix balanced Harnett’s skeptical broodiness against the enthusiastic-adventurer very well.

Truthful and Harnett had great chemistry, both romantically and otherwise, which was much appreciated. They were a good example of the fact the relationships do not exist in a vacuum and as such their interactions with the supporting ensemble of characters were as interesting as their interactions with each other.

The supporting characters, lead by Lady Badgery and Truthful’s Newington-Lacy cousins, complimented the narrative well and made excellent comic relief.

What I Did Not Like
There was nothing seriously off putting about Newt’s Emerald, but if I am being overly critical, the charming simplicity of plot may irk some. That being said, it was succinct and entertaining, which is a hard thing to balance. The romance could have been a little more elaborate, that is, more interaction between Truthful and Harnett because whatever was there was so much fun!

In conclusion, If you are familiar with Nix’s work, Newt’s Emersld is a departure from his prior works, so if you, like me, did not particularly take to his other novels, Newt’s Emearld will surprise you. Newt’s Emerald is a fun little read of magic, mystery, mayhem and manners. It comes highly recommended, if you are looking for a light hearted read with a unique take on an established genre such as historical romance.

Book Review: Pivot Point & Split Second by Kasie West

Kasie West’s Pivot Point  has been on my mind for a while being one of those books that keep reappearing on Goodreads and Amazon recommendations. I recently picked up Split Second, the conclusion to Pivot Point, pop-up book sale thinking it was the first novel. Luckily, I discovered my mistake immediately and did not spoil the book for myself. It meant I had to patiently wait for the Pivot Point to arrive from BookDepository.com because I have developed an aversion to eBooks of late, having read consecutive paperbacks for a while. It was worth the wait, Kasie West’s fun and heart-warming duology about alternate realities was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Summary

Pivot Point introduces us to a secret community of people, ‘the Compound’, that are living amongst us with special abilities that range from telekinesis, lie-detection, memory-manipulation, mind-reading, mass manipulation and precognition. Addie Coleman is a divergent, that is, when presented with a choice, she can search into the future and foresee the results of choosing either paths and thus armed with that information, make the correct choice in the present.

So when Addie’s parents announce that they are getting a divorce, she is encouraged to search the future in order to decide she who wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the secret paranormal compound to live among the “Norms” in Dallas, Texas  or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. Not so much.

Her two potential futures essentially show her two different lives with two different parents, two different schools and two different boys but amidst the same mystery, a murder in the Compound investigated by her father.

With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through… and who she can’t live without.

Split Second deals with the aftermath of the choice Addie makes in Pivot Point. Addie shares the narrative with Laila this time round, who Addie entrusts with a massive task, that she struggles to complete in Split Second.

What I liked:

I was immediately weary of Pivot Point despite its intriguing premise on alternate realities/parallel lives, thinking it was yet another YA love triangle in a different packaging. However, once I cracked it open I was pleasantly surprised at Kasie’s unique treatment of the trope.

Addie is a very likable protagonist: awkward, witty, charming, smart, compassionate and refreshingly pragmatic. It was nice to read about a female lead who did not get caught up the melodrama and wallowed in teen-angst. She was very communicative and expressed her doubts and discomfort, which not only made me adore her all the more but pushed narrative forward at an even and interesting pace.

The secondary characters, Laila, Trevor, Duke and Addie’s parents were also quite well fleshed out and their different dynamics with Addie were delightful to read. I particularly enjoyed the the witty dialogue between this great ensemble of characters.  I must admit that I liked Laila a lot better in Split Second. She was a tad bit infuriating in Pivot Point but seeing things from her perspective in Split Second, definitely changed my opinion of her. Trevor was delightful in both instalments, a very understated yet lovable secondary character. Duke, for the insufferable bastard that he was, facilitated the narrative’s twists and turns well, mainly because Kasie made him quite unpredictable. Split Second introduces us to Connor, who was another great secondary character with a rich background that made Split Second as wholesomely entertaining as Pivot Point.

The respective overarching mysteries in the both books were well developed and gave the narrative structure, transforming it from a mere sci-fi high-school drama to a more widely appealing YA read.

What I did not like:

Like I said, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I found little to nothing of consequence that hindered my enjoyment.

In conclusion, Pivot Point and Split Second was a fun and easy read. If you a looking for a light-hearted yet a slightly nuanced and entertaining read, Kaise West does not disappoint.

Book Review : The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent

Rachel Vincent’s The Stars Never Rise has all the makings of a promising series. It a wholesome and entertaining read that is a refreshing blend of dystopia and urban fantasy with a little romance to sweeten the narrative.

Summary

The-Stars-Never-Rise-

America has been ravaged by demons, possessing humans and reducing them to zombie-like creatures, paving the way for the Church to become the paramount governing body, obliterating the separation of church and state.

With demon possession rampant, souls are in short supply. The Church has introduced a brutally strict regime dictating how one leads their life with a particular restriction on who can be a parent and thus be worthy of a soul for their new child.

Sins are prosecutable crimes, enforced by the Church’s army of exorcists. But sixteen-year-old Nina Kane is too busy trying to actually survive to worry about her immortal soul. She has to watch over her rebellious younger sister, Mellie, and scrap together food and money to hide the fact that their mother is a deadbeat junkie so the Church does not get control of their lives…more so than usual.

Just when Nina thinks she has found a way to end their daily struggles, Mellie reveals a shocking secret that puts them right in the centre of a demon attack. Suddenly, Nina is a fugitive, on the run from the Church…and the demons. Her only way out is to trust the green-eyed Finn and his rouge gang of exorcists.

What I liked:

Vincent’s take on dystopian fiction, a Puritan United States of America, was refreshing, considering how easy it is to imagine a dystopian future as one overrun by machines, aliens or oppressive technological advancement rather than soul-consuming demons. I found it quite plausible, that people would resort to seek spiritual shelter in apocalyptic times and their religious leaders taking undue advantage of this.

Further Vincent’s philosophy behind souls, demon-possession and exorcism is fascinating, particularly her wonderfully warped version of reincarnation.

Nina was a very likeable character. Flawed, beaten, traumatised and way in over her head but unflinchingly fierce. Her supporting characters, the gang of rouge teen-exorcists, were equally entertaining. The various dynamics between them were interesting, humorous and heart warming.

The narrative is a pulse-pounding ride, full of action, witty dialogue and well-placed twists/turns to make you gasp. It features one of the most uniquely interesting romantic sub-plots I have ever encountered and I am intrigued to see how Vincent develops this.

Finally, I liked how the book concluded, in that it was not exactly a cliff-hanger but rather a promise of frighteningly new possibilities. It certainly made deeply invested in the sequel(s).

What I did not like:

While I did not fall madly in love with The Stars Never Rise, I was hard-pressed to find aspects of it that I did not like. Ultimately, I decided I was more invested in seeing how the seeds Vincent has sowed in this instalment will fructify in the sequel(s) rather than marvel their origins, thus explaining my less than ecstatic feeling for The Stars Never Rise.

In conclusion, The Stars Never Rise is a thoroughly enjoyable read with the potential to become a great series. I eagerly await to resume this action-packed ride in 2016.